Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Wall Street analysts he is "shocked and dismayed" by criticism of Windows XP that could potentially lead to a move to block the Oct. 25 release of the long-awaited operating system.
"The fact of the matter is we are doing our job," Ballmer said in response to a question on whether Windows XP could be delayed. "We are building the product. We are doing our final testing. We are preparing for shipment. And there is nothing else for us to do but that. We have got our heads down. We are working hard."
"We, of course, will comply with any request to show up and discuss matters at any time," Ballmer added. "But our job is to finish a great product and put it in the marketplace."
Ballmer's comments came after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), along with a consortium of 17 consumer privacy groups, earlier this week urged government trustbusters to block the release of Windows XP unless significant changes are made to address competitive and consumer privacy issues.
Schumer and Leahy sent a letter to the new head of the antitrust division asking that Microsoft make changes to Windows XP to support rival software applications namely AOL Instant Messenger and Kodak's digital photography.
Speaking at Microsoft's annual analyst conference at the company's campus, Ballmer said the recent U.S. Court of Appeals' ruling paved the way for Microsoft to continue to put new functionality into Windows XP and future Windows products. As an example, Ballmer said his wife couldn't easily reproduce digital pictures on a PC before working with the photography options in Windows XP. "The way we let people pick and choose what software they want to use, what camera they want to use, what photo printing operation they may want to use, that is Windows at its best, doing what it should on behalf of the consumer," he said.
Addressing concerns from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) about Windows XP and Microsoft's Passport services' ability to collect information about consumers and businesses, Ballmer said: "The customer gets to choose how their data is used. The customer has to opt in to letting us have, or at least to letting us use, any of their information."
Furthermore, Ballmer said businesses that choose to partner with Microsoft on .Net services will own that data, not Microsoft. "There is no other philosophy that makes any sense at all," he said. "And we will be accountable to our customers and our partners."
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates also defended Microsoft's ability to continue to innovate and add new features to Windows XP. The appellate court's ruling "overturns everything that the [U.S.] District Court wrote about us not being able to do new things and push the code in the operating system to the next level," Gates said. "We stand on our record. XP is a fantastic product for consumers, and just as we have done in the past, we are going to keep making that kind of improvement."
Microsoft is spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to deliver information to developers and partners building applications using Windows, Gates said. "Windows is an open platform," he added. "What more can we say. That is why this industry works as well as it does."
Referring to Microsoft rival America Online (AOL) and that company's move to pay PC makers to distribute AOL services on desktop systems, Gates said AOL is trying to get "OEMs to delete the features of Windows and not let people have the choice of using our software."
Ballmer also criticized AOL's tactics. "We have never told an OEM what they can and cannot ship," he said. "We have never tried to restrict what they ship with their operating systems. And the stuff that AOL is doing now is just limiting in market choice. It is unbelievably egregious."